Hokies Pitching Dominates, Bats Heat Up Despite Weather In URI Win

Christian Martin and the Hokies hit the ball pretty well on Saturday vs. Rhode Island despite the bad weather. (Virginia Tech athletics)

Cold, rainy and windy conditions are rarely conducive for good offense in baseball. Such was the case for seven innings at English Field on Saturday afternoon.

Stop-and-start drizzle, mid-40 degree temperatures and steady 10-15 mile per hour winds kept Virginia Tech and Rhode Island deadlocked in a 3-2 ballgame for nearly an hour heading into the late innings. With Tech clinging to a one-run lead amidst a long scoring drought, it needed a big lift from its bats to clinch its second series victory in as many weekends in 2024. 

The Hokies (4-2) got that in the form of a pair of seventh-inning home runs — one from Chris Cannizzaro and another from David McCann — to all but seal a 7-2 victory over Rhode Island (1-4). 

“It was just a tough day to get going because it is so cold,” Hokies head coach John Szefc said.

Despite the frigid conditions, the infield tandem of Garrett Michel (4-for-4, HR, 2 RBI) and Christian Martin (3-for-5, three doubles, RBI) was red hot for Tech. 

“I haven’t had the greatest offensive start to the season,” Michel said. “[I’m] just kind of simplifying things and just trying to put the bat on the ball. I told a bunch of people, ‘Look, I’m hitting them hard right now, but they’re just not falling. They’re gonna fall eventually.’ And today was the day.”

The duo came into the weekend hitting a combined 6-for-30 with 13 strikeouts but have found a groove now that they’re back in Blacksburg.

“It’s being at home, getting our batter’s eye back,” Martin said. “Pre-spring, I hit a few pull homers. Early on, I got a little pull-happy and hit a homer [in our] first game. So the next three games I was just trying to yank balls. So [I’m] trying to find a good balance between contact and just staying up the middle.”

Christian Martin was 3-for-5 with a second-inning home run against URI on Saturday. (Virginia Tech athletics)

Michel hit Tech’s two hardest-hit balls of the season on Saturday: a 113 mph single and a 117 mph double. He also hit a home run 402 feet to opposite field to bring the Hokies their final run of the ballgame in the bottom of the eighth.

“He’s one of our best players,” Szefc said of Michel. “Pitchers know when that guy is coming up in a lineup. When he gets it going — as he’s starting to — he can hit, he can hit for power. He can hit lefties, he can hit righties. He can hit the ball [to opposite field] and hit to the pull side. He can do a lot of things that other guys can’t do. And he really has evolved to a point where he’s at least a solid average defender at first, if not better.”

The Hokies also received a major lift from their catchers once again as Gehrig Ebel hit a 408-foot no-doubter in the second inning and McCann slugged the aforementioned two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh. Through six games, Tech’s triad behind the dish has a combined seven home runs and 10 RBI.

“That’s the closest catching group I’ve seen here,” Martin said. “But they’re also good at what they do. Gehrig’s a great catcher. [Henry] Cooke has always been a good catcher, he’s finding his bat. McCann is just the perfect pinch hitter, he comes in, swings at first pitches, gets a fastball and just hammers it. They’re an awesome combo, all three of them.”

In his second Saturday start of the season, Rutgers transfer Wyatt Parliament once again delivered a strong outing, tossing 4 ⅔ innings and allowing two runs on four hits and a walk. He struck out six batters along the way.

“He’s been solid,” Szefc said. “I didn’t think he had his best stuff, similar to Renfrow yesterday. He had to battle through it, and [he] got us to a good place and didn’t give up a whole lot.”

Like Friday, the Hokies bullpen didn’t allow a run as David Shoemaker, Brady Kirtner and Jacob Exum combined for 4 ⅓ innings, giving up just four hits and two walks. And like last week in Charlotte, the Tech pitching staff has given up just five runs across Friday and Saturday.

David Shoemaker and the Hokies’ bullpen were solid against the Rams. (Virginia Tech athletics)

The Rams received equally good contributions from their arms for the majority of the game, especially in tense situations. Tech hit just 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position, including an 0-for-8 stretch from the second through sixth innings.

But once the Hokies started teeing off in the seventh against Colin Maloney, there was no putting the hitting genie back in the bottle.

Tech will go for its first sweep of the season on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ACC Network Extra with sophomore Griffin Stieg (0-1, 22.50 ERA in two innings) on the mound, who will try to bounce back from a rough first start last week against Charlotte.

“We’re in a similar situation [as] we were last week,” Szefc said. “You’ve got a chance to sweep a series and we’re gonna face their best arm tomorrow. The only difference is we’re here, we’re not on the road. So, hopefully that’s a factor.”

Box Score: Virginia Tech 7, Rhode Island 2

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